What does Ayurveda teach us?
By Shyam Madas
Ayurveda teaches us that there are five dimensions of our being. These five dimensions are physical, spiritual, energetic, mental and intellectual . Just as a river flows into a sea, and clouds from the sea feed the river, each dimension of self effects the other. In this context all disease can be defined as systemic imbalance.
Ayurveda recognizes that health and self do not begin and end within the confines of what we would consider “an individual”. Our relationship with nature and the world around us is a constant exchange. Just as the five levels of humans are interwoven, so are we interwoven into the community of life. It is because of this understanding Ayurveda will take into consideration the quality of a persons relationship with nature as a part of the qualitative assessment of a persons health.
Ayurveda recognizes that our health is connected to the health of everyone and everything around us. It teaches us of three types of disease and suffering. Those which are directly related to the body and mind of self, those which are caused by other living beings and those which are outside of the first two, such as a rock falling on your head. All three of these are thought by most Ayurveda practitioners to be driven by personal karma.
Putting aside the more esoteric ideas of the deeds of past lives, we can easily see karma at work in our lives every day. Karma is action. Every action has a reaction. If we do not follow healthy lifestyles , we are likely to get get sick. Simple action and reaction. This same understanding of action and reaction can also be applied to actions related to other beings, not just actions performed upon yourself by yourself.
The Buddha said “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” When anger arises , and we then cling to it, or act upon it, one could say that this is a negative karma. If we are the type of person to cling to anger, we will always be burning with this rage and will soon develop any number of pita related diseases. If we tend to act upon our anger the action will create a pattern in our psyche , resulting in our becoming angry more and more often. This too would create imbalance , ultimately manifesting itself as disease.
When we look at the karma of anger through Ayurveda's holistic perspective, we can see other ways our health can be effected by our anger other than just it's immediate effect on our body. An example could be a employer yelling at an employee. Any number of external negative consequences could arise for the employer, but let us just assume that the employee's reaction was to be saddened by this experience and no longer as happy when he/she is at work. Modern studies have proven that through olfactory influences, and visual empathy one human can effect the autonomic, endocrine and immune function of another simply by sharing the same room. This imbalance would then become a systemic element within the office which would ultimately effect the employers health along with everyone else in the office.
This Ayurvedic perspective of karma shows us that every thought , word and deed has a reaction that will impact on our own health, and ultimately the health of the biological community as a whole.